World Cup: Shankland blunders, Gukesh enters world’s top 10

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/3/2023 – Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Dommaraju Gukesh were the highest-rated players to start their participation at the FIDE World Cup with victories. Gukesh’s win prompted him to join the world’s top 10 in the live ratings list, while Praggnanandhaa and Wei Yi scored brilliant wins. In the women’s section, more than half the games ended decisively, as most favourites failed to get more than half points in the first confrontations of round 2. | Photo: FIDE / Anna Shtourman

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Carlsen scores, Karthik holds Naka to a draw

More than half the games finished drawn on the first day of round 2 at the open section of the FIDE World Cup (22 games ended decisively and 42 were drawn). Fighting chess was the rule rather than the exception, nonetheless, with Bogdan-Daniel Deac needing more than six hours and a half to take down Pablo Acosta, just to give an example.

Out of the eight highest-rated grandmasters, Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Dommaraju Gukesh kicked off their participation in Baku with victories. Second seed Hikaru Nakamura, a favourite to excel in the rapid and blitz tiebtreakers, was held to a draw by Karthik Venkataraman, who showed remarkable poise on his way to grabbing a half point (with black) against his famed opponent.

Impressively, the win obtained by Gukesh prompted him to enter the world’s top 10 in the live ratings list. The youngster defeated Misratdin Iskandarov with white in a 41-move encounter. The 17-year-old from Chennai now stands 0.6 rating points behind Indian hero Vishy Anand in the world ranking — and 23.6 points behind Alireza Firouzja, who is still a junior and is not playing in Baku.

Check out Gukesh’s visit to the ChessBase studio, where he was a brilliant guest in Karsten Müller’s Endgame Magic show...

Ian Nepomniachtchi

Ian Nepomniachtchi | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

The biggest upset of the day in the open section was suffered by 22nd seed Sam Shankland. The 2018 US champion blundered in a non-trivial-yet-drawn rook endgame against Ivan Schitco.

To keep the balance, White here needs to play either 57.Kc2 or 57.Kd2, as his h-pawn will counter Black grabbing the pawn on a3 and himself getting a passer. Instead, 57.Kxc4 loses on the spot to 57...Rc8+ 58.Kd4 Rbc3

And mate next move. Shankland resigned.

Ivan Schitco

Ivan Schitco, who has already knocked out one higher-rated opponent in Baku, beat Sam Shankland with the black pieces | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Brilliant wins for Pragg and Wei

Gukesh was not the only prodigy that impressed in Wednesday’s round. His compatriot Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu (aged 17) and Wei Yi (who surpassed the 2700-rating barrier at 15, now aged 24) grabbed brilliant wins to take the lead in their matches.

Pragg played a merciless attack against Maxime Lagarde with the black pieces.

14...Nh4 15.Rxh4 Qg1+ 16.Bf1 e3 was the beginning of an invasion that ended with Black’s king caught in a mating net about 20 moves later.

The Frenchman resigned after 37...f5+ with mate-in-two on the board. Either ...Qg6 or ...Qd3 (if Nxf5) will seal the deal for Black.

Praggnanandhaa Rameshababu

Praggnanandhaa Rameshababu | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Meanwhile, Wei showcased his well-known tactical competence to counterattack Brazilian GM Luis Paulo Supi in an entertaining, double-edged struggle. Find below expert annotations and video analysis by IM Robert Ris!

Round 2 games - Open

Replay games from all round at

Women’s: Vaishali bamboozles Guichard

There was a higher percentage of decisive games in the women’s section, as 13 out of 32 games finished drawn on Wednesday. However, out of the eight top seeds, only Humpy Koneru and Alexandra Kosteniuk managed to grab full points — all six remaining favourites drew lower-rated opposition.

As for upsets, only Medina Aulia (Indonesia, 2355) managed to take a big scalp, as she got the better of Sara Khadem (Spain, 2488). On their part, Mai Narva and Olga Badelka grabbed wins over slightly higher-rated rivals.

Sara Khadem

Sara Khadem, now representing Spain, needs a win on Thursday to remain in contention | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

Curiously, Pragg’s sister Vaishali followed in his brother’s footsteps in defeating a French opponent on Wednesday. Unlike Pragg, who had a dominating performance, Vaishali was on the back foot in her game with white against Pauline Guichard — but managed to swindle her way into victory.

Both 56...Qb1 and Guichard’s 56...c1Q are winning for Black here. However, after 57.Bxc1 the “automatic” 57...Rxc1 (which was seen in the game) suddenly restores the balance — 57...Rd7 was clearly winning.

Unfortunately for Guichard, things went from bad to worse after 58.Nxh6+ Kh7 59.Nxf7, as she erred decisively with 59...Qb6 when, for example, 59...Qb1 was a quick way to force a perpetual.

Vaishali had no trouble finding the forced mate: 60.Qf5+ Kg8 61.Ng5, and the queen and knight tandem won the day for the Indian rising star.

Vaishali Rameshababu

Vaishali Rameshbabu | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Round 2 games - Women’s

Replay games from all round at

Full schedule | Pairings and results

All games with computer analysis: Open | Women’s


Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.